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The prettiest villages in Cornwall

In a land where the works of Thomas Hardy and Winston Graham come alive, where the coastline whispers tales of smugglers and shipwrecks, and the moors hold secrets of ancient legends, Cornwall's villages stand as beacons of unrivalled beauty. From the craggy cliffs of the north to the sub-tropical gardens of the south, these hamlets have inspired artists, writers, and dreamers alike, each vying for the title of Cornwall's prettiest village.

Whitewashed cottages cascade into fishing harbours that once welcomed or fought off merchants and pirates, while creative communes hide in sub-remote oases. Choosing the prettiest villages in Cornwall was no easy feat, but our shortlist showcases the places that take the ginger biscuit. These are the destinations that will have you instinctively reaching for your camera, eager to capture the view and etch it indelibly into your memory.


A harbour and houses in Mousehole, one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall


Mousehole, nr Penzance

Mosey down to the western toe of Cornwall to find out why Dylan Thomas dubbed Mow-zul the “loveliest village in Cornwall”.

Meander to the western tip of Cornwall to discover why Dylan Thomas proclaimed Mow-zul the "loveliest village in Cornwall". Even a century after Thomas' declaration, Mousehole remains one of Cornwall's most enchanting hamlets, packing a sophisticated personality into its historic harbour setting. Despite its diminutive size, Mousehole is renowned for its spectacular Christmas lights, the tale of The Mousehole Cat, and Stargazy pie (a dish of pilchards, eggs, and potatoes, with a pastry crust, served on Tom Bawcock's Eve to commemorate a fisherman who saved the village from famine). But it's the undeniable aesthetics and exceptional dining that have transformed this tiny village into a magnet for the well-heeled. Book ahead to secure a table at 2 Fore Street, keep your eyes peeled for seals basking offshore on St Clement's Rock, and follow in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas on a ramble through the Kemyel Crease Nature Reserve to Tater-du lighthouse.

Where to stay: Kailani, a luxury cottage with a hot tub and views over the sea, or one of the largest beach house abodes on Tregonhawke Cliff, Tempest.


Cawsand, nr Saltash

Dive into gin-clear waters and follow the irresistible scent of freshly baked bread through cobbled streets, flanked by cottages in a kaleidoscope of pastel hues.

Twinned with neighbouring Kingsand, Cawsand was once separated from its sibling by the historical border between Cornwall and Devon. As you step into this 'forgotten corner,' keep an eye out for the original boundary marked on one of the vibrant cottages, while your gaze alternates between maritime mosaics, painted-stone dwellings, and Plymouth Sound. Wake early and make a beeline for The Old Bakery Café before their famous sourdough sells out. Embark on a wild stomp around Rame Head to the crumbling chapel where the Spanish Armada was first spotted, then, strip off at the sand and shingle cove for some wild swimming. Return home and tuck into your sourdough, piled high with salty Cornish butter and local jam.


Charlestown, nr St Austell

This historic harbour is immortalised on the silver screen in Poldark and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Step into your own film as you enter this Georgian port where the majestic tall ships are moored, and Poldark and Jack Sparrow have brought their characters to life on the big screen. Built by landowner Charles Rashleigh to facilitate the shipping of copper from Cornwall, Charlestown's period sensibilities are deeply rooted in its maritime past, which you can further explore through the underground tunnels of the Shipwreck Treasure Museum. Simply gazing out at the scene from one of the harbourside inns is enough to ignite your imagination. Still, our ideal day out includes a leisurely stroll along the wooded coast path to Porthpean (dip en route), followed by a relaxed brunch at the Longstore, where local ingredients are turned into artful fusion dishes.


A cliffside in Polperro, one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall


Polperro, Nr Looe

Uncover the secrets of this former fishing village, now a haven for artists, where whispers of the past echo through its narrow streets.

Polperro transports visitors into a bygone era once dominated by pirates and fishermen. Dive into the tidal pool, explore the cave where smugglers concealed their loot, or delve into history at the Heritage Museum. Ascend either side of the verdant coombe, and you'll understand why artists flock here to immortalise the seascape on their canvases, available to buy in the independent galleries below. But don't be misled into thinking wholesome Polperro has eschewed modern comforts. Behind historic facades, chic bistros serve contemporary seafood dishes, while the Talland Bay retains a traditional swashbuckling spirit with its plough-to-bottle gin.

Where to stay: Raffia, a Scandinavian-style beach house with safari-style sea views from floor-to-ceiling windows.


St Just in Roseland, nr Truro

Lose yourself in a verdant paradise, just a heartbeat away from the upmarket harbour of St Mawes and the thrumming city of Truro.

While A-list celebrities still flock to St Mawes, with its Tudor fortress, Olga Polizzi's legacy, and much-lauded restaurants, the jewel of this verdant peninsula is the village of St Just in Roseland. Despite its proximity to Truro, St Just is a world away from city life: the 800-year-old church stands as a testament to its rich history, surrounded by exotic blooms that lead to serene estuary walks. With one of Cornwall's finest culinary treasures and cookery schools, Philleigh Way, nearby, food lovers won't need to venture far to satisfy their cravings. If you do wish to explore further, simply hop aboard the scenic King Harry Ferry and cross the River Fal. 


Crantock, nr Newquay

Slip into traditional village life just a stone's throw from the surf mecca of Newquay.

Hidden just across the Gannel estuary from Newquay's effervescent surf scene lies the delightful village of Crantock, boasting a classic inn, inviting cafés, and powder-soft sands. At low tide, a footbridge allows easy access to the sugary, dune-backed beach, while at high tide, a foot ferry transports visitors to this hidden hamlet. Wind your way past slate and stone cottages bedecked with buoys and ocean ephemera to reach the village square, where you can tuck into vegan treats at a trendy café or slurp heady, honey-coloured Cornish ales in a traditional country pub. A place where community runs deep, Crantock hosts various annual events, including the spirited Big Bale Push, where the giant cylinders of hay are pushed around the village. However, the daily spectacle not to be missed is the North Coast sunset, best enjoyed from the beachside Bowgie Inn.

Where to stay: The Hatch, a quintessential Cornish cob cottage wrapped in sub-tropical gardens that brim with wildflowers.


The harbour village of Coverack, one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall


Coverack, Lizard Peninsula

Savour the catch of the day, straight from the hands of local fishermen, in a hamlet tucked along this dramatic shipwreck coast.

While Cadgwith often steals the limelight with its thatched cottages, narrow lanes, and pretty harbour, the understated and lesser-known Coverack deserves equal attention. Just a twenty-minute drive north, this charming port village is home to a small fishing community and boat-to-plate restaurants like The Lifeboat House. With a slightly more rugged allure, Coverack offers a haven from the sometimes =0ferocious Atlantic winds that have caused numerous ships to founder on the nearby reefs – a sombre reminder of which can be found in the graves of over 400 ill-fated sailors at St Keverne, just a short walk north. Despite its tumultuous past, Coverack is a delightful spot for modern water sports, with opportunities for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, and paddleboarding.

Where to stay: Ukiyo, a striking home on the untamed east coast of Cornwall's Lizard Peninsula.


Port Isaac, North Cornwall

Mingle with fishermen, celebrity chefs, and movie stars in this striking harbour village of blockbuster renown.

No mention of Cornwall's most idyllic villages would be complete without a nod to this stunning spot, famously featured in Doc Martin and Fisherman's Friends. As you descend the steep lanes to the fishing harbour, you may find yourself humming your own shanty as fishermen putter ashore to deliver their daily catch to the cluster of cafés, restaurants, and delis overlooking the picture-perfect scenery. Remember to pack your walking boots, as the lure of the coastal paths winding steeply out of the village will prove irresistible. After conquering a few calf-busting climbs, you'll have earned the right to indulge in the six-course tasting menu at Outlaw's Fish Kitchen (booking ahead is a must), unless you've already succumbed to the temptation of award-winning tapas at neighbouring Port Gaverne.

Where to stay: Salterton, a luxuriously-appointed Victorian manor near Port Isaac with a sea-view pool.


Boscastle, nr Tintagel

Fall under the bewitching spell of this romantic coastal village where Thomas Hardy fell in love with his sweetheart, Emma.

It's easy to lose your heart in Boscastle, captivated by the rugged scenery, eclectic cafés, and cultural oddities. This whimsical idyll, where the Museum of Witchcraft infuses the harbour with an air of myth, magic, and mystery, serves as a gateway to ancient walking routes that lead over towering clifftops to the sea-lashed ruins of Tintagel Castle, past bellowing blowholes, slate quarries, and wildlife lookouts. Two decades after devastating floods, the enduringly magical and resilient spirit of this captivating Cornish village continues to shine, charming not only Hardy but countless visitors since.

Where to stay: Aphrodite, a tranquil chapel conversion set over five floors.


Feeling inspired? Discover where to eat and drink in Cornwall, read our guide to the best events, fairs, and festivals in Cornwall, or browse the full collection of luxury homes in Cornwall.

Properties featured in this article: Tempest, Aphrodite, Raffia, Ukiyo, The Hatch, Salterton, Kailani

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